Does My Son Want to Contact His Biological Father?

July 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

A reader recently asked me for an update on Nate’s desire to write a letter to his biological father. First of all I was thrilled that anyone was paying attention, let alone remembered the entry! Second of all I wish I had more news.

I contacted Nate’s father via email, the only way I can contact him, and asked him if a letter was something he would be open to. In an attempt to manage expectations, I had to know if he would even provide us an address to which Nate could mail his letter and drawings of Lego buildings. I had to know if he would ignore it, so I could help Nate navigate that disappointment. It was not, nor is it now, my intention to shield my elder son from disappointment, and maybe it should be. I have never created an image of his father that was full of fantasy or anger, but rather tried to dispense information that I thought was age-appropriate: he doesn’t live with us; he lives in another state; he has chosen to not be part of Nate’s life at this time but we leave that door open for them to have a relationship someday.

After two weeks I heard back from his father who enthusiastically said yes to the letter, provided an address, and said he would welcome anything to establish the relationship. (Of course he’s the adult here and could have established a relationship any time in the last seven years if he got off his ass and acted like an adult! He didn’t add that, the editorial is all mine.)

But since that first time, Nate hasn’t mentioned the letter again and I have not brought it up. I wonder if this another musing of a seven-year-old mind, much like wanting to go camping at Mount Vernon and do I think he could swim to Canada via an intricate map of rivers and streams. If he brings it up again, I will sit with him and help him prepare the letter, affix the stamp and drop it at the mailbox. And I will wait with him, hoping the connection is genuine and that his father begins to grasp how incredible this little person is.

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My All is Not Your All: Comments on “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”

June 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

Like many people, I’ve been caught up in the polarizing dialogue around the recent Atlantic Monthly article by Anne-Marie Slaughter called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Yep. You’re bristling already aren’t you.

The Women’s Studies feminist activist of my youth was prepared to tear apart her every argument, but the working mom of two was saying “wait a minute, let’s hear her out. She’s got a point.”

And she does.

I do not agree with all her arguments about why women are not able to simultaneously achieve what she considers high level professional success while maintaining a functional family life. Many of the arguments have merit but in fact, I disagree with her very definition of “all.”  The premise itself is the most flawed part of the whole article for me.

Having It All has not been culturally redefined since it was coined as a quippy goal of the feminist movement of the 1970s when women fought for the rights of respect, equal access, credibility, and the ability to make the same life choices as men. I’m eternally grateful. However, when “having it all” means women need to have a successful, high powered and financially lucrative career, coupled with a hot love life to a committed partner, well behaved children, and a clean house, I think we’ve done ourselves a disservice.

First of all, I think that a lot of these issues women are facing also apply to men. More and more often men are experiencing similar internal battles of high pressured work and wanting to be there for soccer games and the first day of school.

We set women up for feeling like failures when society instills – and we accept – the Martha Stewart effect. That everyone, every woman, should be able to make her own laundry detergent using organic lavender she grows in the palatial backyard while simultaneously running a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate. Martha almost seemed to have a disdain for those of us who didn’t follow her 29 ‘simple’ steps for a five-layer Flag Day cake replete with marzipan soldiers re-enacting a battle from the War of 1812. Setting that as the standard of “having it all” is a cultural punishment of women that does little to support people who want and/or need to work while simultaneously having a family life.

I never liked Martha, not until she went to jail and mellowed out a bit.

The social and cultural issue that we need to tackle I believe is to more broadly define what it means to have it all. It isn’t about ambition. It is not, as Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, said in her 2011 commencement speech at Barnard, a matter of women not dreaming big enough. (SERIOUSLY?!) Not all of us will be a COO of a massive company, or head a university or even a country. But more importantly, we may not want to! We can want more than nosebleed-high professional success and still be worthy, contributing women.

I know many women who have been lucky enough, talented enough, to take side steps off the professional path they were on and find fulfillment and compensation to support their families in a more present way, but it is not easy. We all started in a similar way – fresh from college or grad school, putting in long hours, living in tiny apartments, willing to say yes to any project or advancement opportunity and only thinking about its life impact later. Or when something happened that forced us to stop – a father’s heart attack, a lay off, a divorce, a pregnancy, or a sick child. I myself have made very different professional choices since my kids came along and have been questioned about it time and again. I resent the questions and having to justify my decisions to bosses and even human resource managers who think that ‘spending time with my children’ is a less reasonable reason to take a lateral job than ‘taking time off to travel Africa.’

When my first son was 18 months old, I chose to leave an executive job  and became a consultant for a few years. I was minutes from his day care, and he no longer was in someone else’s care 10 hours a day, five days a week. Life was more flexible, and I was more accessible mentally and physically. It was precarious, as many of my single parent and self employed friends know, but the freedom to control my own schedule was paramount to being able to dedicate time to my family instead of punching a clock and being beholden to someone else’s schedule. I should not have to apologize for that choice but I have been asked to justify that decision in job interviews since then.

There are times when I do feel twinges of envy for the high flying life of champagne receptions and international travel. And then I go home to my messy apartment, greeted before I can even get my heels off and my heavy laptop bag down, by jumping children who scream and crave my attention and love. It is not about commitment, because to make a decision to step out of the professional rat race, or turn down a higher paying job because it will require more travel, is the definition of commitment to one’s family. My “all” includes family first and work second, not the other way around.

We have gotten so far from our politically pithy commitment to “family values” that we are routinely telling young women (and young men) ‘you can have it all, just not at the same time’ when really we should be saying ‘fight for a life balance, demand it of yourself and your colleagues and employers.’ We should be realistic that being a working parent who achieves as a parent and as an employee is tremendously hard, and for those with professional choices and the ability to have help at home and affordable child care it is much easier than it is for the vast majority of working women. We should applaud, not penalize, parents whose career path looks like a staircase and not a rocket launch.

My “all” is not the same as yours, and certainly not the same as Dr. Slaughter’s, but it is one I’m proud of and happy with. That alone should be the definition of achievement.

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Missing the Hours in the Day

June 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

There are never enough hours in the day. We all feel that way at different times, I know. Not enough hours to finish the laundry and actually put it away instead of dressing for the week out of the plastic basket in which you tossed the hastily folded clothes. Not enough time to cook seven healthy, seasonal, variety-and nutrient-rich dinners for your family while maintaining a full time job. Never enough time to work out, date, or bathing suit shop, or do whatever it is that you are truthfully just putting off because your heart isn’t in it.

I’m just saying.

As a single mom of two my “there aren’t enough hours” is literally about time. I don’t have enough time to make the time that I need. In other words, I am skimping on alone time with my kids.

In an average 24-hour period, they spend about five waking hours with me a day on a week day. That doesn’t sound horrible but bear in mind that it includes the 2 ½ hours before they go to daycare/school in the morning when I am less than fully awake because they get up at an ungodly hour. I need at least the first hour to inhale my coffee and grasp the reality that we’re starting a new day. Again. Our real quality time of that day is found in the 45 minutes that I drive Sam to daycare and then Nate to school. I cherish that time. We talk, Nathan reads out loud to us, Sam points out everything he can see from his perched car seat and practices new words with an excited shout. BUS! BIRD! MAN! BACKPACK! CRASH!

On the flip side of the day everyone is exhausted (Nate), irritably hungry (Sam) or running around to get dinner on the table before a major meltdown occurs (me.) Bedtimes can be good, yes, with stories and snuggling and clean smelling kids. Or they can be a living hell. It’s a toss up.

But what about real quality time? Time one on one, doing an activity the child will not only enjoy but find mentally, physically, and spiritually fulfilling? What about those long chats that they will remember when I’m long gone, the kind memorialized in life insurance commercials?

Not happening.

There are times when I find myself thinking about life before Child Two. When one-on-one time was more manageable because we were one-on -one for 48 hours straight on weekends. I don’t believe that life was rosier or easier Before Sam (appropriately abbreviated B.S.) but that kind of solitary bonding was a given. Now it takes work, and planning, and usually a sitter to make it happen. I think I am setting the bar too high, honestly. I need to be better about giving myself some credit for the small things like our morning commute time. Or our Saturday mornings in the farmers market where they get atrociously expensive organic bison jerky simply because they both do a bison jerky happy dance that melts my heart. If you ever need a lift, watch a two-year-old scarfing down jerky and dancing like the Wizard of Oz’s Scarecrow.

Like most of us, I have this mental ideal of who I need to be as a parent that is basically unattainable. She’s not real. She isn’t me and she’s not the mother that they clearly adore. So what that our one-on-one time may happen at 4AM when Sam wanders into my room and wants to play peek a boo beneath his blankie; or at 7PM when Nathan needs a high five for completing a fractions worksheet that he cried over. The mom I am with them is real. She’s busy, she’s committed, she is fiercely focused on them when we are together and examines her parenting decisions every day. Regardless of the lack of sunrise fishing trips at the end of long piers or mommy and me yoga classes, my kids seem to be doing fine with the time they have with me. Time will tell.

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The Perks of Home

June 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

As hard as it is to leave home and travel for work, I find myself relishing the small pleasures of a few days in a hotel. I’ve written before about being a single parent and traveling sans children – the meals, the laundry, the permission slips and play dates. Half the work of a work trip occurs before I step foot into an airport.

But once I arrive at my destination, and check into a hotel, I exhale and take stock of the small joys of work travel.

A crisp, and more importantly, empty bed. No hidden pacifiers between the sheets, no dirty socks left under the pillow. (Don’t ask me why but Nathan leaves his dirty socks under the pillow.) This bed holds the promise of a full night’s sleep. Alone.

A clean bathroom, a toy-free tub, and matching towels.

A door to the bathroom that will actually stay closed when I close it instead of bursting open with a small hands shove when I’m taking a shower, followed by an insistent voice that I better come quick because the top of the lizard cage has ‘mysteriously’ come off.

No lizards, not in this hotel room.

A full-sized ironing board that I can leave up without fear that it will land on someone’s toddling head or used as a surfboard, or both. I actually travel with clothes that need to be ironed just for this satisfaction.

HBO, not the Cartoon Network.

The happy sheen of independent travel wears off in about 36 hours. I miss the noise. I miss the early morning snuggles. I miss seeing their securely loved faces when I walk in the door at the end of the day. I miss milestones like the last day of school and a field trip to the zoo. As much as I can temporarily enjoy the freedom of eating a meal in a restaurant without a kids’ menu and being able to complete a whole conversation with another adult without interruption, I am always relieved to get back home to my grungy and cluttered tub and the dirty socks left under my pillow. The sterile hotel room can be fun for a bit but my real life has all the perks I need.

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Scenes from Transitions

June 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

 

 

My little family’s universe is going through its own planet shifts. It may not be the full solar eclipse or Venus transitioning the sun, but we are all facing something new and uncertain. Every one of the four of us is going through some personal ending or beginning, a transition or a change. in the end, they will all be good but the getting there experience is different for each of us.

My mother is traveling alone for the first time in several years this week. She’s been looking forward to the cross country trip to see her first grandchild graduate high school. In helping her prepare over the last few days I have seen a new hesitancy in her that doesn’t surprise me but does sadden me. How will she get through security? She can’t stand that long. (We arranged for a wheelchair to meet her at the ticketing door to take her to the gate.) She was concerned about how her bag would get into the overhead since she can’t lift things over her head. (Don’t worry, people will help you.) Will they take her medications at security if they are liquids? Why does she have to put her coveted Joy perfume in a plastic bag? (A cane-walking pharmacy, I sent her off with print outs of the scripts from her doctors just in case security thinks she’s a drug runner.) The questions went on. She left me with her favorite ring, ‘just in case,’ and reminded me that she wants to be cremated. I told her if she dies in a fiery plane crash she will likely already be cremated. She didn’t find this funny.

My mom was the one who was always up for an adventure. It took her five years to save for a trip to Europe when we were kids but she did it and our family of 6 spent 28 days touring five countries. She has taken more 12+ hour road trips than I ever have. But she could trust her body then. She could trust her mind and her own abilities. Time and pain have taken that away.

Nathan has four more days of school and he’s exhausted. There are so many endings and celebrations that our schedule and patterns are all out of whack. I was highly unpopular last night for dragging him and his brother out of a still in progress event at 8:00 on a school night. They were wrecked and needed to sleep, even if they didn’t think so. There have been three melt downs this week. Seven-year-old meltdowns are about as fun as a two-year-old temper tantrum, but with longer kicking legs and a greater damage pattern. I’ve seen both this week and have created a list of key elements of success for each. I’m going to make score cards today and rate the next ones like the Olympic judge from East Germany.

Sam seems to be feeding on everyone’s angst and excitement. He is going through his own transitions at daycare with new teachers which are manifesting in clinging and hiding behind my legs. I don’t blame him – these are new people to me too and I’m clinging to him as hard as he clings to me. Will they take good enough care of my baby? I recently talked to a colleague who was bemoaning the need to find new daycare for her 3-year-old because she found out the teacher had been locking him in a closet when he wouldn’t nap during the day. Every parent’s nightmare story, right? I trust the care providers for Sam but this is the stuff of daycare legend. It is hard to not think about it.

As for me, change is always good. Even when the process is painful or long, it ends the way it is supposed to end and that’s got to be good. There are things afoot personally and professionally and I remind myself 1,706 times a day that it will all come out the way it is supposed to. I can’t control most of it. Besides, I am the safety net for everyone else’s transitions in my family. I reassure, I fix, I provide, I hug and hold. I set the rules and I allow all of us to break them. As the net, I can’t fray and crumble, no matter how stretched (or stressed) out I become. It is all for the good. It has to be.

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Snap King? Skip Fling?

May 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

I think that foreign language instruction should be mandatory. I think that every one of us should be at least bi if not tri lingual. Languages have been known to expand your primary language vocabulary, enhance your connection to music and math. Not to mention the cultural implications and travel possibilities.

I speak a little French, enough to get by at a film noir or to read a haughty menu. But the language I wish I had learned years ago is toddlerese.

You may not find an Adult English to Toddler dictionary at the library but it’s a real language. Ask any parent.

If I spoke toddlerese fluently my day to day frustrations trying to understand my two-year-old would vanish. I’d be able to stop saying: What is it? WHAT DO YOU WANT? You want oatmeal? You want an obtuse triangle? Did he just say ‘you talk too much’ or was that ‘you touch the tissue box?’ Sam, slow down and try again. You want to carry your backpack? Marry a hunchback?

These days I find I fall back on my old language tricks: I say yes a lot. And OK. And we have mutually come to an unspoken agreement that after several attempts at understanding Sam’s jumbled speech I hold out my hand and he guides me to whatever it is that he wants and needs. I can’t begin to comprehend the level of frustration he must feel not being able to communicate with those who love and provide for him. And I know just enough to translate, not always successfully, which seems to lead to a greater expectation on his part that I actually have any idea what the hell is going on in his head. Poor kid.

One would  think I’d have this one down in my round two of parenting but I think I blocked out this stage, like so many other things, in the five years’ difference between my two sons. Nathan, closer to his native tongue of todderese than either me or my mother, often can translate for his brother. Though sometimes I think he is making it up just to see what I will do.

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Knocking Through the Door

May 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Single Parents, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

My 7-year-old is more mature than I am. Maybe it is because he hasn’t been hurt or jaded or twisted as I have become in my 43 years. Maybe he is just a better person than I.

I have long suspected that he is an old soul who has more kindness and generosity of spirit than most children his age and certainly more than many adults I know. His intensity and sensitivity continue to amaze me.

The latest evidence of this was found in his announcement that he wants to write a letter to his father.

Following on my comments last week about keeping the door open to their relationship, I think he’s decided to give that door a hearty knock.

They have not seen each other since Nate was a toddler. Nate understands and accepts that his father lives in another state and is not part of our family but the questions have been coming more frequently lately about who this man is, what is he like, and would he like me. The last one is a gut twister.

He says he’s been thinking about it and the first line of the letter will be “hi dad, this is Nathan. I’m seven years old now.” He wants to tell him about his school, his friends, and what he wants to be when he grows up. He wants to tell him about how he loves to build things and how he is training to be a ninja. He wants to say that he hopes his dad will write him back so they can be pen pals and maybe someday they could meet.

I support the letter and yet had to warn him that his dad may not respond, and that if that happens it will be ok to be sad. He rolled his eyes and said he knew that, he just wants to try it and see what happens because even if he doesn’t write back, his dad would probably read the letter and know more about him. (See, this is the wisdom I’m talking about – he can’t control the response, only what he puts out there, and that’s ok.) When I wondered aloud why he was choosing to do this now, he said that he’s seven now and he knows a hundred people, but not his own dad.

Good point.

My immediate reaction was to panic. He’ll be disappointed. He’ll be hurt. He will take it personally when his father ignores the letter. He will be crushed, then resentful, then angry. He will decide that men abandon people who love them and are not trustworthy. (And let’s all say it together: PROJECTION!) But maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. Maybe Nate’s optimism can override my pessimism. I can hope for the better response instead of planning for the worst. Being pen pals with his dad will fill the need he so rightly has for a close connection with a man who should be not just his father but his dad.

I have always said that the door is open for them to connect. I have purposefully kept in limited contact with his biological father and have long encouraged a connection between them but the adult in their relationship has chosen otherwise. I cajoled, I yelled, I threatened, I disappeared, I cried, I flippantly dismissed. I always said that some day, Some Day, he was going to open the door to see this tall, lanky young man with beautiful brown eyes standing on the other side of the screen demanding to know where the hell he has been his whole life. And he would have to answer for his absence. I never thought that would happen this quickly. Or with this kind of love and compassion of a young child, just wanting to know if his dad liked to build stuff out of Legos too.

One of my greatest fears is that as Nate gets older he will choose this man over me as the person he loves more than his cherished poster of all the US presidents. I could close the door, I know. I could destroy his image of this man who would be his dad with my own tainted memories. But I need to be the parent and make decisions that I believe are in his best interest, even if it means that one or both of us gets hurt, again, along the way. He deserves that from his parent.

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The Opening Door

By: Wendy Rhein

This passed weekend we celebrated Nate’s birthday with three of his buddies. In typical Nate fashion he wanted an event unlike any other. That dream was translated into an afternoon picnic and romp at an old battlefield fort, now a national landmark. Each of the four seven-year-old boys had his own compass, his own canteen, and a bandana to tie over his head as they explored and played spy games around Civil War era cannons.

As we trekked to our picnic site from the car, each kid carrying something we needed, one of the boys asked Nathan about his father. Before Nate could answer, the same child turned and asked me, “Nathan doesn’t have a father, right?” I replied that yes, he does in fact have a father but he’s not part of our family. Another boy chimed in, “yea, that happens. Same with my cousin, except he has two moms now.” Yes, I said, that’s a family too. “Yea. And sometimes parents have to leave. They can’t stay married even when they love their kids.” Yes, I said. Sometimes that happens too. The third boy asked Nate, “so where is he, your father?”

“He’s in another state. I don’t see him. But my mom keeps the door open just in case we want to see each other when I’m older. Right Mom? (with a big smile on his face and a slight leaning into me) You keep that door open.”

I could not have been more proud in that moment. Proud of how these boys talk to each other and to me. Proud of how they can acknowledge how their lives are different and the same as other people’s. And incredibly, abundantly, and gratefully proud of my own child’s confident response.

Yes, love, we keep that door open.

No fears, no worries, just the honest truth.

And off they ran, this band of brothers, to tackle the fantasies of invisible enemies and “us versus them.” It gave me hope that the “us” is widening and expanding with each year as these boys and others like them grow into men.

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A Fantasy

By:  Wendy Rhein

I have a confession. I have a fantasy that is occupying more and more of my time. It is tantalizing to distraction and I’m fantasizing about making the fantasy reality.

Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Come with me.

I dream of a vineyard with a few out buildings and a 15th century stone house that leans slightly to the left.

There is an old wood slat barn down the pebbled path, perfect for a cow or two, some sheep and goats. Maybe even a pig. The rolling land has a vineyard on one side and an olive grove on the other. And in the middle is me, shoulders back, confident, the natural wave in my hair flowing (all of the grey is gone too, by the way), with a basket of dirt-clinging vegetables resting on one hip and a baby on the other. I’m happy. I’m relaxed. My kids are running barefoot through the olive grove. There are no car alarms going off, no toy-stealing and no one slamming doors down the hall.

 

Can’t you feel your blood pressure dropping just LOOKING at this?

In my waking/tied to the desk hours, I sometimes close my eyes and go to this happy place but increasingly I’m frustrated when I open my eyes after the phone/email/blackberry/cell phone pings. It isn’t refreshing anymore. I wonder what it would take to make the dream a reality. Could I really uproot my family and move to a pastoral village? That’s easy: absolutely. No problem. Sell our belongings, pack some bags, promise my elder son that he’ll make new friends and off we’d go. Sounds a little cold I suppose but the prospect of that kind of adventure and way of life sends me over the edge of compassion for my kids and into “mama says now” mode. But the rest of the fantasy, that’s the hard part. Finding the right property. Discovering how to make money in this new environment. The logistics of living as an ex-pat. Schools. Language.

Damn I hate when reality gets in my way. But it has to be possible. I know scores of people who have made the literal leap over the Pond for a different way of life.

This could be in the cards for us and I’ve gone as far as discussing it with my mother. She’d pack tomorrow if I let her. Her request is that I promise to not relocate us to Africa, and that since she would fully expect to die wherever we go so she would like that place to have decent medical care so she can get the good drugs in the end. Fair enough.

So, if anyone is looking for a permanent caretaker for their European second home, or you know someone who needs some help on a vineyard or a small B&B, give me a call. You’ll be amazed at how fast I can pack.

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Brother From Another Mother

April 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

“Who is THAT?”

“This is Nathan’s brother, Sam.”

“He isn’t Nathan’s real brother!  He doesn’t look anything like you.”

And so started my Friday evening.  Actually, let me back up.  My evening started when I dashed out of work for daycare pick up.  I walked into the happy and bright room and saw a handful of little people surrounding a daycare worker, a substitute, and together they were studying something orange and fuzzy.   I hung back, loving the look on Sam’s face when he sees me at the end of the day.  The biggest smile creeps over his face and he explodes with a running leap to me.

He saw me, smiled, and as he started his dash, the substitute daycare worker stepped in front of him.   She glared at me and asked who I was.  Meanwhile Sam is behind her yelling happily “Mama! Mama!”  I replied to her I am Mama.   She looked at Sam, wide eyed, and then looked at me with narrowing eyes.  And looked back at him.   He scooted around her legs and ran towards me but by this point my excitement over his excitement had been tarnished.  We proceeded to walk around the room and gather his end of the week things: a random art project, his red baseball cap.   The worker followed me around the room as I followed Sam.   I wondered if she thought she could catch me not knowing where things were or trapping him in the coat room.   I was tempted to say something but held back.  This isn’t the first time my parenting link with Sam has been questioned by an African American  woman, just as I have written before about Caucasian people raising a questioning eye.  It goes both ways, folks.

Just in the moment that I wanted to remind her that there were four other 2-year-olds that could use her attention, one of the regular class leaders came in and greeted me by name.  Immediately the watchful woman hung back and sat down.   I admit I felt a little smug in the moment.  Sad but smug.  Is that possible?

Once we were home, I was greeted by the conversation above from a 7-year-old playmate of Nathan’s.   Within a minute of the comment his parent arrived to take him home and none too soon.  My mom went on to tell me of the other things that had been said that day, judgments flying as soon as he walked in our home.  The most hurtful of which involved Nathan not having a father (the kid’s words, not mine) and that Nathan could never be a Jedi or a ninja (the two most sought after career options of 7-year-old boys) because only dads can teach those skills, not moms.   Nathan, bless him, countered with the simple statement that his mom is an incredible Sensei and a Jedi Master (which I am) and his training has been excellent.

His training in self respect and self restraint is clearly excellent.

His Master and Sensi, however, needs a refresher.

I waited for several hours and let the comments fester.  I reached out to a single mom friend of mine with a multiracial family and we discussed options.   I was frustrated and hurt and angry and yes, feeling lacking as a parent to not be able to prevent these kinds of lobs of divisiveness that still surprise me.   More often than not I expect it from adults – the mean spirited comments, the looks, the “he doesn’t belong to you” stares.  I expect more of children.  I have seen so many of them ask questions out of curiosity and wonder, accepting the answers that we give about fathers and colors as if they make perfect sense.  Because they do make perfect sense.   Families are all different and it is love that makes a family.   Or, as Nathan said about his friend’s comment on his brother:  he was born to a different mother, so what?  He’s my brother no matter what.

In the end, I wrote the parents of the child a cordial and careful email, explaining that comments were made that caused some hurt and I hoped they would work with me to address them because our kids have a special bond and I would hate for these things to get in the way.   I monitored myself very carefully.  I chose my words to make my point and not to give life to the rant that was ping ponging around my brain.   In their response the parents were horrified and apologetic.  They swore they didn’t understand where that language and thought was coming from, and I believe them.   They would speak to him.  They would work it out.

In the day that followed my email Nathan had all but forgotten the comments made.  He had dismissed the no dad/no ninja comment as some silly and uninformed quip.    He knew better, he said.  And yet, he remained upset by the comment about Sam.  A full 24 hours later he said that he was so glad that Sam was little and couldn’t understand what was said because he knew it would hurt him more than it hurt Nathan, and that was already a lot of hurt.   What better demonstration of a brother’s love could anyone want?

Two days later Nathan and I went to see them to have a quick chat – after multiple attempts the child remembered he needed to apologize for saying ‘something’ that hurt Nathan’s feelings.   Was I satisfied?  Not really.  Am I expecting change?  Unlikely.   Am I incredibly thankful for the loving and courageous friends of all races, family compositions, ages and genders who are raising inquisitive and caring children for whom something different is not something wrong?  Absolutely.   All y’all know who you are.   Thank you.

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